Excel Computers Excel SG-685X
- Quality components and peripherals, performance results
- The DDR2-based P35 motherboard may limit future upgrades for some enthusiasts
With quality components and quality peripherals you can't go wrong. The Excel SG-685X performed well in our tests and is bound to please any gamer looking for an upgrade.
Price$ 2,999.00 (AUD)
If you're into gaming, but don't have the know-how to build your own PC, the best option is to go for a vendor like Excel Computers, who has a PC like the Excel SG-685X. This machine is built using some of the best available hardware, and is almost a guaranteed good performer.
Excel Computers has installed an Intel E6850 3GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, one of the latest releases from the Intel camp. This CPU takes advantage of the P35 chipset with a 1333MHz front side bus (FSB) that motherboard manufacturers have started pumping out in preparation of the next generation Intel Penryn CPUs. Many of the new motherboards will support the new DDR3 RAM, but many, like the Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3 installed here, still only support DDR2. In some respects this seems like short term planning for a PC upgrade, but DDR2 is still a very powerful performer and there are only a few DDR3 options currently available.
Excel Computers has installed 2GB of Corsair 800MHz DDR2 RAM and an MSI GeForce 8800GTX. The 8800 GTX is NVIDIA's number two graphics card, which offers 128 stream processors, a core clock speed of 575MHz and a memory clock of 1800MHz (effective speed). There's a total of 768MB of DDR3 graphics memory on this bad-boy and a solid 384-bit memory bus to transfer data rapidly between the card and the system. This card also supports DirectX 10, the next generation application programming interface from Microsoft and the basis for the next generation of high-end games such as Crysis.
Also included is a D-Link wireless, though the motherboard includes a gigabit Ethernet port. There is plenty of storage, with two 500GB Western Digital hard drives (1TB total) and Excel Computers has installed an e-SATA bracket on the rear of the case, giving you up to 3Gbps transfer speeds to external SATA drives. The bracket includes a Molex power socket for un-powered drives. For other storage needs you can turn to the ASUS 181BLT SATA DVD burner.
The Antec Nine Hundred case is an excellent choice, offering plenty of cooling, including a 200mm "Big-Boy" fan for hot air extraction at the top. Three 120mm fans are also installed and the Silverstone 560-watt power supply also has an extraction fan. This particular iteration of the case also includes rubber sockets for water-cooling tubes to be inserted, in case you're feeling adventurous with your hardware.
There's no boring generic keyboard and mouse with this package. Instead, you get a Logitech G15 programmable keyboard with its own LCD, and a Logitech G5 corded laser gaming mouse. High resolution movies will look nice on the Acer AL2416W 24in screen, which offers a native resolution of 1920x1200.
In our benchmarks the SG-685X performed well, achieving 111 in WorldBench 6, more than enough for games and plenty for photo editing and other taxing applications of the like. Our MP3 encoding tests showed good results. Converting 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files took just 60 seconds in iTunes and 89 seconds in Cdex (Cdex uses only one core of the CPU).
In game tests we also saw good scores and frame rates. First we put the SG-685X through some DirectX 9 tests, beginning with 3DMark 2006, in which it scored 11224 at the default setting. In FEAR it averaged 80fps (frames per second) using the maximum quality settings and a resolution of 1600x1200.
In the DirectX 10 tests it also performed reasonably. Using the Call of Juarez DirectX 10 demo the SG-685X averaged 26.5fps. In Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DirectX 10 version) it averaged 70.3fps, with the default settings. With the maximum resolution of 1920x1200 and all DirectX 10 features turned on the average fps dropped to 32.5fps.
We even gave it a spin in the new Crysis beta test demo and, although the game is still in development, we were able enjoy the splendour of the high quality settings with playable frame rates.
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Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.
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I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
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